Add to this escalation of toxic leadership, particularly in Army, and senior leader incompetence [see Tom Ricks’ book, The Generals] and you get an unappealing prospect]. W/R/T Gen. Mattis specifically, his competence, integrity — and candor — are legendary. His summary characterization of U.S. Marine is classic: “no better friend, no worse enemy.” I’ve heard Mackubin Owens brief in Pentagon; he’s got relevant experience and a very sharp mind. I consider him very credible. I think he’s nailed this particular topic.
Cutting the military to fuel the welfare state doesn’t instill fear in a nation’s enemies
By Mackubin Thomas Owens
Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2013, Pg. 13
The Department of Defense faces some stark choices in the future due to the threat of sequestration. But the continual sounds of shoes dropping at the Pentagon suggest that the sequester may be the least of its problems.
The first shoe was the announcement in December that Marine Gen. James Mattis would leave his post as commander of Central Command in March, well short of what would be expected of a combatant commander who has acquitted himself well since he was appointed in August 2010. Most observers were stunned. There seemed to be no logical reason for his being replaced early. Most unforgivably, he learned of the move when an aide read a Pentagon press release announcing the change.
According to recent reports (on journalist Tom Ricks’s blog, for instance), White House officials, especially National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, weren’t happy with Gen. Mattis’s advice, in particular his effort to change the strategic framework regarding Iran. Gen. Mattis thought we should be planning for what Iran is capable of doing—such as closing the Strait of Hormuz or attacking Israel—not just what we assume Iran will do. In addition, Gen. Mattis and the White House clashed over the way ahead in Afghanistan, his concerns about Pakistani stability, and the response to the Arab spring.
Despite these policy disagreements, it is noteworthy that during Gen. Mattis’s time as the commander responsible for one of the most volatile regions in the world, there were no manifestations of the unhealthy civil-military relations that characterized the tenure of Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. There were no leaks to the press from within his command over policy disagreements and no reports of “slow rolling” or “foot dragging” in Gen. Mattis’s implementation of the president’s policy.
A president has every right to choose the generals he wants, but it is also the case that he usually gets the generals he deserves. By pushing Gen. Mattis overboard, the administration sent a message that it doesn’t want smart, independent-minded generals who speak candidly to their civilian leaders. What other generals and admirals are likely to take from this is that they should go along to get along, a very bad message for the health of U.S. civil-military relations.
The second shoe to drop was the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense. Much of the opposition to Mr. Hagel has focused on his alleged hostility to Israel and his seeming indifference to a nuclear-armed Iran. As serious as these issues may be, the real problem is his likely approach to the defense budget.
The Hagel nomination is a replay of President Harry Truman’s appointment of Louis Johnson as secretary of defense in early 1949. Like Mr. Obama, Truman was committed to funding his domestic programs at the expense of military spending. When the incumbent defense secretary, James Forrestal, argued that cuts in the defense budget were too deep in light of emerging threats, Truman asked for his resignation and replaced him with Johnson, whom most historians regard as a partisan hack.
Like Truman and Johnson before them, Messrs. Obama and Hagel are predisposed to look at the defense budget in the abstract, independent of the real world. Yes, the defense budget can and should be cut. But the danger is that President Obama has appointed Sen. Hagel for the same reason that Truman appointed Johnson: to take an ax to the Pentagon in order to free up money for the president’s expanded welfare state. This is alarming. National security strategy—not budget cuts for their own sake—should drive defense spending and force structure.
The third shoe dropped on Jan. 24, when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the opening of most ground-combat billets to females. There are three reasons this is a terrible policy change.
First, there are substantial physical differences between men and women that place the latter at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to ground combat. Second, men treat women differently than they treat other men. This can undermine the comradeship upon which unit cohesion, and thus battlefield success, depends.
Finally, the presence of women also leads to lowered—or worse, double—standards that will have a serious impact on morale and performance. Secretary Panetta’s statement that “if [women] can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve” is bunk, and everyone, especially infantrymen (and most women), knows it.
Indeed, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave the game away when he said as the policy change was announced that, “if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high?” Gen. Dempsey thereby guaranteed that politically appointed civilian officials will lower standards.
So we have a yes-man/hatchet-man as the likely next secretary of defense whose job is to do his worst at the Defense Department. And the firing of a general who did what he is supposed to do: provide advice forcefully. And women in the infantry, which undermines military effectiveness but pleases the diversity crowd.
With a secretary who doesn’t care and generals who will now think it in their best interest to keep quiet, we are likely to see more such nonsense. The combined effect of these three events will degrade the readiness and effectiveness of the U.S. military far more than sequestration will.
Mr. Owens is editor of Orbis, the quarterly journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and author of “US Civil-Military Relations After 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain” (Continuum, 2011).
ROBERT STEELE: I care deeply about the Constitution, the Republic, and national security and national prosperity, to all of which I have devoted — and will continue to devote — my life. I am not giving up on America. Others have moved to Canada, Ireland, Costa Rica, and elsewhere. The wealthy are fleeing and the lower middle class is desperately moving into barter and off the books income. I will stay and try to reconstruct America the Beautiful in the next 20 years. I do not quit nor do I sacrifice integrity for convenience as have so many of my peers, good people trapped in a bad system. The author of the above article gets the first and the third right, the second wrong.
Relief of General Mattis. Correct. Tom Donilon is a public relations hack and a laughingstock among professionals. Having said that, there is also a legitimate fear within the White House, based on severe misbehavior by Admiral Cosgrove and others, that a false flag attack to incite war with Iran would be launched by our own military hacks. General Mattis, unlike most flag officers, has both intelligence and integrity. I would reinstate Mattis while also installing across CENTCOM a proper counterintelligence architecture now lacking, retire Panetta immediately — after first disclosing to the public his short-comings over Benghazi — and send Donilon to be Ambassador to Bhutan. The next national security advisor should be, as I have written elsewhere, a Whole of Government advisor with a grip on strategy, acquisition, and Whole of Government operations, as well as policy. In the ideal, the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget (OBM) should be the equally-versatile counterpart of the new “mentor/tutor” to the president. It merits observation that the next Secretary of Defense, if they desire to be effective, will have to retire at least half of the three and four stars, putting the rest on probation, while carefully considering the immediate retirement of most senior executives. It may be that retiring all of them at one grade less, in recognition of their abject failures these past 20 years, will continue modest savings and be a form of non-judicial punishment that is fully justified.
Nomination of Chuck Hagel. Wrong. Most flag officers and senior executive officers have never learned to think for themselves about big things. They are O’6’s that won a beauty contest and then fell in line with the prevailing corruptions of the day, the largest of which is the management (I use the term loosely) of DoD based on service budget share, rather than an honest and holistic requirements and joint capabilities process. Chuck Hagel is already gored, and will probably destroy himself within the year through injudicious selection of key personnel who are business as usual incompetents. Hagel has one chance to get it right, both with the selection of his key subordinates and in articulating to Congress what he should have articulated in his opening remarks at his confirmation hearing: 1) reform can be job and revenue neutral district by district, state by state; 2) we need a 450-ship Navy, a long-haul Air Force, and an air-liftable Army; and 3) we can (and we must) BOTH cut the documented 40% waste in Defense acquisition AND build the four forces after next. Anything less is piss-ant theater.
Women in Combat. Correct. The Israelis studied this under combat conditions and found that even the toughest women, including lesbian butch women, while being totally competent and generally full-performance themselves, destroyed unit cohesion and effectiveness because the Israeli men, however focused on the mission, inevitably allowed their reptilian instincts to take over when a woman was wounded, and the unit would collapse into itself rather than fight on as if a man had been wounded. The reason to not have women in combat is based more on the effect it has on men emotionally and instinctively, rather than on any sexual conflict of interest or any shortfall in the women themselves. This is a nuance most pontificators will never understand.